Soldier: It's a chest-high wall, Mr. Smarty Pants. Got any more dumb ideas? Maybe we can crowbar it away? Or kick under it? Or gravity gun through it? Frohman: Or climb over it? Soldier: Or climb over it?
The phenomenon, found in countless video games, in which a seemingly trivial obstacle — such as a Locked Door — cannot be circumvented or removed with brute force, no matter how powerful the player character(s) is/are. This is more jarring when the obstacle in question does not mark the edge of the gameworld, but rather serves to force the player into taking a particular path.
The basic Insurmountable Waist Height Fence is an obstacle, usually between ankle and chest height, that the character(s) can't climb or step over simply because the game doesn't include such an action. Other common variations include:
The Indestructible Adamantium Door, a door that only can be opened in cutscenes. Bonus points if it looks like it was made from cheap wood 200 years ago.
The Indestructible Fallen Log, similar to the Indestructible Adamantium Door. A fallen tree which, despite your having nuclear weapons in your arsenal, can't even be chipped.
The Unclearable Debris, a pile of rubble of some description that is apparently both solid enough you can't move any of it yet unstable enough that the game won't let you even consider climbing over it.
The Impassable Forest, a sparse congregation of vegetation, apparently sporting a force field that expels player characters.
The Frictionless Hill, a slope of arbitrary steepness onto which you can jump only to slide off as if the thing were coated in an industrial lubricant.
The Gentle Slope of Unclimbability, a slightly inclined piece of land which, despite all logic to the contrary, is completely impassable, both up and down.
The Rough Ground of Unwalkability, an area of rocky or otherwise uneven terrain you can't even step onto.
The Ledge of Instant Death, a type of Gravity Barrier, that looks safe to jump down from, but kills you anyway. Especially flagrant when the game doesn't otherwise have falling damage.
The Knee Deep Water of Uncrossability, a body of shallow water which may as well be a Bottomless Pit as far as your ability to ford it is concerned. See also Super Drowning Skills.
The Impassable Head High Hole, an opening you can't enter because the top of your character's head is an inch too high.
The Unslideable Passageway, a passageway that needs to be crawled through but isn't at ground level, inaccessible because you can't crawl over a tiny obstacle or pull yourself up into a crawl.
The Impenetrable Darkness, an area which is impassible because your character apparently has a paralyzing phobia of darkness. Sometimes justified if there are actually things in the dark trying to kill you or pits to avoid, but more often leaves the player wondering why they couldn't just borrow one of the lit candles from a few rooms back instead of restarting a generator.
Shadow of the Colossus averts this trope, but has some instances where it's played straight. Wander can climb mountain-high monsters and still be unable to scale a few mountains in the valley with relatively gentle slopes.
With Lampshade Hanging, when you encounter a certain unopenable door in The Journeyman Project 2: Buried in Time, your AI Sidekick comments, "I've got a feeling that the room behind this door has neither been modeled nor rendered." Similarly, the original Journeyman Project makes you take the lift straight from your 4th floor apartment to the ground floor transporter booth that takes you to work. Pressing floors 2 or 3 receives a reply of "Access denied; this floor was never modeled nor rendered."
There is a certain room in a cave in Star Fox Adventures which requires you to pointlessly trek a longer path around the room even though the entrance and exit to the room are mere feet away from each other, all because a small amount of short grass stands between them.
This room, as well as every other similar room in the game, is used to allow the game time to load the next area; using a Gameshark to hover over the grass, then walk through the tunnel on the other side, results in you seeing an area of nothing but sky, then the game freezing.
The original Tomb Raider had doors which were quite literally a few pieces of 2 X 4 nailed together into a gate, barely as high as Lara was tall, and with plenty of room to go over top. Lara could not get past them without finding the switch to open them, even though she's strong enough to drag large crates and has a jumping ability to rival Mario.
In one level of Tomb Raider: Anniversary, you come across several cages. With vertical and horizontal bars, which look like they could be climbed like a ladder. Which you nevertheless cannot climb, for a game which features all sorts of climbing (and actual ladders) in other situations...
The series as a whole frequently uses frictionless hills, indestructible fallen logs/doors, uncrossable water/quicksand, and impassable foliage.
In Cave Story, early in the plot a locked door provides an obstacle, and a friendly nearby robot is willing to create explosives (out of chewing gum, for some reason) to break it open. This ignores the fact that the main character is equipped with a missile launcher.
Although since Cave Story is a 2D game, it probably has something to do with the fact that no matter how he tries, your poor little protagonist can't actually point his missile launcher at the door.
Later in the game, the entrance to the waterways is initially blocked by a grate which can't be opened even with an NPC's help. If it could, a difficult Boss Battle and a major plot twist could have been avoided.
The 2-D Zelda games provide many obvious examples of this, with a plethora of simple obstacles that nevertheless require you to find a powerup first. Move past a bush? Not without your sword. Step over a small rock? Forget it unless you got your power glove. A small tree? Nope, only if you got the fire wand. One of the most outlandish is in The Legend of Zelda Oracle games, where you can walk past trees in winter, but in any other month their hanging leaves form an impassable barrier.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask actually avert this, in a subtle sense that most players won't catch. Very low fences, like the ones in the training area in Kokiri Forest, can be backflipped over. This is mostly used in speed runs to save quantum bits of time. Compare this behavior to the Gamecube and Wii games, where attempting to jump over similarly-high fences will cause Link to hit an invisible wall and more effectively prevent sequence breaking.
The fences in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time's Hyrule field. While they come up to adult Link's waist, Link on Epona's back must jump over one in particular it as if it were a high fence, and only then at a very particular angle (perpendicular).
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess features many examples of this. There are many rock walls that cannot be destroyed at all until you reach the area on the other side by other means; others can only be smashed by the Ball-&-Chain or a Goron.
In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, every time you try to sail to areas your map doesn't cover, your boat says something along the lines of "In that direction is sea too dangerous for you to travel now." and refuses to sail through. Justified in a technical sense as it's as far as the map has been programmed.
The King of Red Lions (your boat) also does this if you try to go anywhere but the row of three map tiles between Windfall and Dragon Roost Island before finishing Dragon Roost Temple, and the column from Dragonroost to Tree Haven before you clear the Forbidden Woods, so if you want to get back to Windfall Island from Tree Haven, you have to go north and then west, rather than just cutting through diagonally.
In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Link can climb over low barriers, including the waist-height fences in Skyloft. Running over one of these sends you plummeting to your doom, and a convenient passing knight has to save you. Link has his own rideable bird, but the game doesn't let you call it unless you jump off in one of a few special spots (which are not fenced). So even though he can, technically, jump over the fence, it might as well be an infinitely high wall that scolds you when you run into it.
In the Metroid Prime series, there are some just too high cliffs that, if you exploit some cheap tricks (like jumping onto inch-thick vines) you can actually get over (and into glitch worlds, in order to do some sequence breaking).
In Overlord, the waist high obstacles are further highlighted by the green minions, who can make amazing leaps when attacking enemies but otherwise remain just as glued to the ground as the other types. In some places, they can even end up stuck on or behind the Waist Height Fences while attacking, because they can't jump anymore after all the enemies are dead.
The Zelda-clone based on the Winx Club animated series includes several plot-based fence obstacles, completely ignoring the fact that the protagonists aren't called "winx" for nothing, and can fly easily.
There's an interesting case of this in Castlevania64, where the main character can jump around and grab ledges just fine, until they have to carry an explosive material across several rooms, where jumping or falling even a few feet suddenly results in instant death. A usually quick walk to the area in question turns into a nightmare of side-rooms and death traps. All because our trained vampire slayer couldn't slowly lower himself down those last few broken stairs
Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams is littered with flagrant examples of this, but none more aggravating than a point where your characters are faced with a ladder that descends from the top of a ledge to two feet above ground level. The bottom rung is no further from the floor than the protagonist's knee, but he must still wait for another character to lower it the rest of the way before he can climb it.
Onimusha 3: Demon Siege features (among other examples of the trope) the impassable museum rope barrier.
Prince of Persia (2008) has the Ledge of Instant Death. Despite the Prince being an excellent acrobat, he can't jump down more than 2 meters. At some points, Elika catches the Prince even though his feet already touched the ground.
The Nancy Drew has this problem occasionally, but a real crowner occurred in the second game, Stay Tuned For Danger. At the beginning of the game, you are required to pick open a lock with a credit card. Fair enough, but later in the game, you have to open identical doors in the same hallway, but you absolutely have to find the keys for these.
Nilin handles frequent parkour/platformer sections but can't jump over knee-high objects unless the plot demands it. There are a handful of spots where you can seeRare Candy right on the other side of a knee-high box but have to find a level passage around.
Much of the Rare Candy is on forks off the main path, but proceeding down the main path engages sawteeth behind you. Many forks are 50/50 guesses whether you're going to find a powerup and backtrack or lose it forever.
In the 1982 Colecovision game Smurf Rescue, white picket fences and tufts of grass were obstacles that must be jumped over... because if you touched them, they killed you.
Very prominent in Robert Ludlum's "The Bourne Identity" where mostly every object is an impassable barrier despite the player being Jason Bourne. At one point it got so bad that a stairway was blocked by a simple red rope barrier forcing the player to go all the way round.
Lampshaded by Guybrush in Escape from Monkey Island. On Lucre Island, there's a nice little field which is closed off by nothing more than a very low, wooden fence. Guybrush refuses to cross it, saying, "I could go over there, but... I... really don't WANT to. Yeah..."
The player character's behavior in the Myst series would seem to indicate that you are an extremely polite crippled geriatric... If not for your ability to rocket up and down flimsy ladders at absurd speeds.
Related, in Myst III: Exile. How many players out there have suspected that they could have taken Saavedro hand to hand? This situation was avoided in Myst II: Riven, as Gehn and his goons always had you behind bars, or covered by lethal projectile weapons, or both.
Saavedro even left a spare mallet lying in an accessible part of J'nanin. Of course, you aren't allowed to pick it up.
Riven contained a great subversion as well: early on, you encounter a flimsy wooden door sealed with a padlock. This door is insurmountable... unless you crawl under it.
Riven had some strange aversions. The aforementioned gate has so little clearance only a child should be able to climb under it. Later, the player can climb into a pipe that is at most a foot in diameter, and blocked by a fan housing.
In Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, the player can climb or jump — but cannot climb or jump over fences eighteen inches high, barbed wire lying flat on the ground, or the game's ubiquitous traffic barricades. (But at one point, his path is blocked by a simple wooden gate. Jumping against it will knock it down.)
At least Uru allows your character to swim (and makes up for it in one area by introducing currents so strong you can't fight them). Myst and Riven are fond of blocking the player from interesting areas using water of various depths.
Dreamfall: The Longest Journey is full of these, the best being insurmountable ankle-height rope. Particularly jarring since Zoë is otherwise keen on pointing out and complaining about adventure game cliches but this one is played straight.
Eternam has what can only be described as an ankle high fence. Rocks, on the other hand, can be walked through.
The "Ankle Deep Water of Uncrossability" example is completely justified in the Hamtaro games. While he's pretty adept at climbing up or over just about anything, a puddle is a major hurdle to a protagonist who's only 3 inches tall. There's still no excuse for why he can't step over grain-sized pebbles or sunflower seeds though...
RHEM does this a lot in that all water seems to be No Walk Zones, and thus water constantly has to be lowered and/or raised, complete with floating bridges.
Probably the oldest case of this in video games is Zork. Yes, the waist high fence even existed before graphics to -see- it.
You would need a machete to go further <whatever direction>.
In the same vein, a large percentage of Interactive Fiction games involve locked doors that must be unlocked or circumvented — you can't just break them down. Unless the developer has specifically allowed you to climb or attack bits of scenery, you usually get a default message saying you can't.
Lampshaded in Zork: Grand Inquisitor: using a sword against most objects will result in Dalboz informing you, "Violence never solved anything. Well, not everything. Okay, not this thing!"
Hyper and quasispace in Star Control 2 have an edge. This is pretty common to the genre, but somehow glaring here (possibly because the issue of an edge is sidestepped in melee).
In The Night Of The Rabbit waist height fences are used literally to prevent you from getting into certain places (wood dwarves's, Hares family's garden and their birthday party). Instead, you have to solve some puzzle in order to get there. Talk about a hero who respects private property!
Played with in Dark Seed II, wherein a good chunk of the plot is driven by Mike Dawson's inability to succeed at carnival games (including the infamous ring toss).
First Person Shooter
Bulletstorm has lots of these. Good news, you can jump over in the correct "hotpoints". Bad news, you can't even jump back most of the times (there are few exceptions). And no, Black Op turned Space Pirate Grayson Hunt cannot jump voluntarily at all.
BLACK features a truly ridiculous example where a knee-high pile of rubble can only be scaled in one direction because there's a plank on that side forming a ramp. It must be because of the invisible wheelchair the protagonist is obviously confined to.
Black almost has more invisible walls and insurmountable fences than plot. Every mission is filled with situations like the one described above. In one mission you descend a staircase, only to notice that the last step is missing when you get down to the floor below. This missing step, only about 10 centimeters high, makes it impossible to go back the way you entered. The fact that you can't jump in the game only makes these situations more ridiculous.
Black takes the silliness to further extremes. Many of the waist-high fences can literally be destroyed (by you or the bad guys)... but passing over them is still impossible. And the enemies can jump over whatever the heck they want.
The sequel goes even further with this concept, as heavily damaged structures can collapse completely, killing anyone inside. Often this is a quicker way to destroy a key objective without having to arm and defend a bomb.
Although on the singleplayer level "High Value Target" there is a part where all of the two-story houses have random bathtubs blocking the stairways, preventing you from going to the second floor. Even if you destroy the houses, the normally climbable rubble becomes this trope.
Countless examples of locked doors seemingly made of flimsy wood being impervious to explosives of all kinds. In Half-Life, Gordon Freeman couldn't knock down locked doors with any of the explosives he was carrying, which included grenades and demolition charges. In its expansion pack "Opposing Force" the character of Adrian Shephard, despite being a trained marine, cannot breach doors unless he enlists the help of an NPC with a blowtorch. Even worse, the NPC must be kept alive during an Escort Mission; if he's killed, the game ends. Shephard apparently can't just take the blowtorch from the fallen man and use it himself.
Justified as using a blowtorch is a specialized skill which revolving around learning how not to kill yourself with a tool that can cut steel like stale bread and therefore human flesh like warm butter.
The Brothers in Arms games feature highly physically fit paratroopers who are unable to surmount fences and earthen walls that seemingly only reach them to the waist. Curiously enough, during scripted attacks some enemies are capable of jumping over said fences.
In the second game Sergeant Matt Baker, an NPC who was the player character in the first game, can be seen climbing over one of those low fences that he could not traverse when he was controlled by the player.
Finally, in the third game, Hell's Highway, vaulting over obstacles was implemented. There's also a lot of destructible cover and terrain. Nothing beats blowing an MG out of his nest with a bazooka. The only things you can't go through are buildings - pretty much everything else is vaultable.
In the Halo series, our hero does not normally have Super Drowning Skills, but some bodies of water, especially in the third game, are "instant-death water of uncrossability". Even in the games that lack falling damage for normal falls, falling in the wrong place kills you, preventing Sequence Breaking. There's also Frictionless Hills and Invisible Walls, some of which are lethal. And Border Patrol in multiplayer maps.
The two Red Faction games not only made strides to avert this trope by making much of the environment destroyable, but also sometimes required brute-force breaching to progress with the game. This feature, however, caused those points in the game that were obstructed by indestructible architecture (i.e. most of the game) to become only that much more conspicuous.
Ironically, the third Red Faction game, with its enhanced ability to destroy anything waist-sized and up, and jetpacks and sprinting that allows the player to reach just about anywhere, there are several Ledges Of Instant Death and InvisibleWalls, usually at the bounds of the map. The player can find even greater heights to jump from without fatality, or even sometimes without major injury, and still die when jumping off map-edge ledges, while the little posts with bleeping lights on them tell you that the dastardly EDF have erected an invisible wall in the middle of this empty field.
In the first game, there are several "ledges of instant death", where it looks like you can jump to them, but the landing kills you.
Notably avoided (somewhat) in Deus Ex where the player, when faced with a wooden door can always just blow it open with explosives or knock it down with the energy sword. Only reinforced metal doors and some plot-important doors were completely impassable. Played straight in one scene where you are supposed to surrender to the enemy and cannot escape the spot where they engage you even though it is fenced with nothing but waist-high blocks.
Sometimes justified in Urban Chaos Riot Response. Sometimes the obstacles make sense, like the fact the alley way is on fire, or the stairs are blocked by burning debris. Other times he can't climb over a single row of crates. But that could be because he is carrying a small armory by that time.
The Call of Duty games are absolutely crazy about this. There are knee high fences you can't step past. And if there's some rubble, "this road's closed, we have to go the other way!". *sigh*
At least you can shoot through doors and thin wooden walls like on barns. Most games of this type treat any barrier as bulletproof.
In Modern Warfare, it doesn't matter if you're Force Recon, Army Rangers, or SAS; you lack the training to open doors.
Though, once you transfer from any of those to Task Force 141, you get a bottomless supply of breaching charges to just blow the doors to smithereens.
In 3, you can open a few doors. It's just that terrible things happen every time you do.
In multiplayer, hosting a dedicated server lets you, among other variables, set jump height much higher than in normal gameplay. This doesn't really let you go anywhere you couldn't normally get to, as pretty much every prop in the game even half as tall as a player character has an invisible wall around the top.
Some parts of Black Ops allow you to open doors, but other times you have to wait for your teammates to come by.
More flagrantly, certain fences can only be traversed once you get the go-ahead and your team advances, such as at the beginning of the level "Hunted".
In Condemned it's not uncommon for a tipped-over shelf to completely block a door, preventing Ethan Thomas from passing when he could have easily shoved it out of the way. In the sequel, it's made even more frustrating in that Ethan can now climb through windows, slip through gaps, climb boxes, and jump down pits, but only when demanded by the very linear level design. It makes it very frustrating to be in a hotel and see a luggage cart and reception desk blocking your path, requiring you to find the small, foot-wide area where you can press the magic button to slip through. Of course, Ethan can never do this in other circumstances, such as climbing over a few cardboard boxes and a couch instead of needing to use a conveniently-placed ramp. The worst part is that oftentimes players will struggle to find a context-sensitive area that allows them to progress, or spend time searching for an alternate route when Ethan can just climb through the hole. He can't even climb fences or gates that are locked behind the people he's pursuing, yet attacking enemies can vault over them no problem.
Also, Ethan lacks the ability to jump (again, unless it's part of the level design). The issue? Physics objects, like garbage cans, can easily fall in the player's path, yet Ethan can't jump over them and will be stopped in his tracks by an ankle-high cardboard box, requiring the player to kick it out of the way.
The first game featured flimsy wooden doors that can be chopped to pieces with an axe but not a crowbar and chains and locks that can be broken with a crowbar and not an axe, and other strangely specific ways to get past obstacles in a game that emphasized improving weapons...
Integral to much of the level design in Doom, where any protrusion above knee height might as well have been Mount Everest until you found the right button to lower it. A number of source ports have since added jumping to the game, which allows players to skip huge swaths of some of the classic levels by simply hopping over these obstacles.
Although you can jump in Doom 3, you are incapable of surmounting waist-height obstacles such as broken stairs.
According to the Official Playstation Review of Killzone 2, there's a particularly bad example. The player's squadmates can climb over a fence with no problem, but the Player Character needs their help to get over the exact same type of fence.
Crysis mostly averts this. However, after a while, one begins to notice that the entire island is made of valleys with walls just slightly too steep to climb and just slightly too high to jump over.
Crysis Warhead doesn't. While you can drive down trees with your Armoured Personnel Carrier and blow up whole buildings with nothing but a grenade, you will still get stuck (sometimes permanently) in the same flimsy wood fences that you could kick down even if you weren't a nano-suit augmented super soldier.
Since you can't jump in the Perfect Dark games, any object taller than ankle height is insurmountable, e.g. overturned furniture blocking a hallway.
Left 4 Dead and its sequel feature a variety of these. There are a number of occasions where the survivors' path is blocked by apparently surmountable obstacles: the truck on the bridge after it is bombed in "The Cemetery" level of The Parish campaign and the short fence before the running panic event in "The Barns" level of Dark Carnival, both in Left 4 Dead 2, are outstanding examples. The survivors are also incapable of scaling drainpipes, columns and the like, despite the Infected (which are just humans with a mutant strain of rabies) being perfectly able to use them, and there are a large number of handle-less doors that are impervious to chainsaws, fireaxes, crowbars and explosions despite all of these objects being able to demolish and/or damage all the "usable" doors throughout the game. Also, when playing as the Infected in Versus mode, the limits of the player's range are often baldly indicated with a literal invisible wall, marked only with a string of floating "no entry" signs. The survivors' initial spawn point in a campaign is often surrounded by an invisible wall (as at the beginning of The Parish, where the players are prevented from running off the side of the dock or off the short gangplank leading up to the waterfront).
The Medal of Honor series railroads the player with just about every type; standard insurmountable waist-height fences or walls, barbed wire, minefields, invisible walls, indestructable fallen logs, impassable foliage, unclearable debris, adamantium doors, and unclimbable slopes. Even the more non-linear Airborne often uses these, and no, you can't parachute over them either. One of the most egregious examples is the insurmountable brick wall in the first mission. Subverted in the Sniper's Last Stand: Outskirts level of Allied Assault, where you get to blow open a gate with a bazooka. The Nebelwerfer Hunt has an impassible window where you have to trick a Tiger tank into destroying the wall, as you can't blow it up with your own rocket launcher either.
TimeSplitters has a few instances of this. In one level of the third game, your path is blocked by a few strips of police tape and a hole in some boards. A little strange in that your partner Jo-Beth has no problems climbing under the tape. Very strange after she falls through the floor on the other side and instead of climbing under to check on her, you go a much longer path.
Star Trek: Elite Force II has one of these moments, where the main character and his team are in a sewer system and he gets separated from them. Shortly thereafter, they find each other in the maze of tunnels only to be stopped from continuing on together by barrier resembling the bars on a jail cell. Only the bars are about two and a half feet or so apart. One team member even places a hand on each one and leans forward through the bars, only to say signs. The survivors' initial spawn point in a campaign is often surrounded by an invisible wall (as at the beginning of The Parish, where the players are prevented from running off the side of the dock or off the short gangplank leading up to the waterfront).
Rage includes a jump button, but places invisible walls in various locations to ensure that the player can't take the easy way out. Want to just vault over that wall and drop two feet onto the escalator down to the ground floor of the mall? Nope! Gotta go unlock the gate in front of it. Want to just crawl through the small hole in the fence that leads to the button? Nope! You can't go any lower than a crouch, so you need to blow a hole in the wall to enter the room.
The Marathon series uses the Impassable Head-high Hole and Invisible Wall in a number of places.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Wolfenstein both use these to prevent the player from accessing areas until the plot requires it, such as unreachable ladders that may later automatically get lowered, plot locked doors, unclimbable ledges, and impassable barricades, which may be cleared by a higher power such as a tank.
In Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, most waist-height walls can be vaulted over, but some block your path for no good reason. In the mission where you have to recover the nuclear football, your immediate path to the objective is blocked by insurmountable wooden road barricades.
Do you think M1 Abrams tank is able to overcome ankle-high curbstone? Think again.
Mirror's Edge involves a mission in which Faith must descend to near-street level to enter a subway system. Though falling into the street being instant deathis feasible if you're ten stories above it, it makes decidedly less sense when it's more like ten feet.
One level in FEAR 2: Project Origin starts in an elevator stopped halfway between floors, and it looks like Becket should be able to climb out onto the upper floor, but the game physics don't allow him to.
Hack and Slash
In Diablo, the town of Tristram is delimited on all sides by these. A waist-high stone wall to the northeast, a river to the southeast that's maybe a metre wide and 30 cm deep. The western border is blocked by moderately large rocks (150 tall at most).
DiabloII continues this - Act 1 of the game has sections separated by short stone walls and some trees and weeds between. Maybe there's poison ivy, and who wants to battle evil when they're itchy?
God of War uses arbitrary indestructibility pretty egregiously, especially given how destructive Kratos is to things he's allowed to hit. One particularly obvious example comes in the first game, where Kratos is blocked by a metal gate with thin bars, that already has a great big hole ripped through the center by Ares' forces (you know, the one you beat up all game, often by being physically stronger than them). Rather than climb through the hole or rip a new one in the gate, you instead go through a convoluted process of creating a 4 foot stepping stone so you can reach a ladder on a nearby wall and bypass the gate. This stepping stone? Is the head of an enormous statue that you pushed over with no leverage beyond bracing yourself against a wall. Then there's the start of the second game, where the strength of a god allows you to throw the Colossus of Rhodes halfway across the city by seizing it by the foot, but won't let you break down a wall.
In the first The Lord of the Rings jump-and-run for the PS2-era consoles, insurmountable waist height fences would team up with invisible walls and insurmountable shrubbery and fallen trees to form a path as linear as the early Crash Bandicoot games.
Used sadistically straight in VVVVVV. In one level, the only thing stopping you from getting a Shiny Trinket is a tiny block in your way. So you have to go around it, straight through "Veni, Vidi, Vici". Speak to anyone who has played the game and watch them cringe.
In Super Mario Sunshine, this is more prominent when you consider that you're on an island and could probably swim to each area, minus a couple up on the slopes, without having to go through the hub world.
In Donkey Kong Country 2's Krazy Kremland area, the heroes find themselves outside a Circus of Fear. They enter and pass through all obstacles, only to emerge in a swamp about twenty in-game feet from the entrance. Separating them is nothing but a grassy knoll.
Modern era Sonic the Hedgehog games seem to zig-zag this trope, depending on the stage. Some stages, Sonic can walk under water with no problems whatsoever with the only problem being lack of air. Other stages, once he goes past knee-deep, he encounters the Knee Deep Water of Uncrossibility and Sonic cries out "NO!" as he loses a life. Unless he's going fast enough, in some cases.
Yoshi's Island: In theory, Yoshi's jump and flutter mechanics have a maximum upper limit, leaving the game's designer to build labyrinthine paths that are blocked by walls exactly one pixel too high for a normal player to get past. To the delight of the speedrun community, there exist multiple means to extend Yoshi's vertical range and execute many a Dungeon Bypass.
Super Mario Kart: All barriers during the races were flat on the ground, being, at most, ankle high. Yet they were completely impassable. In one of the battle stages, you can jump over the barriers into the little puddles. So inability to jump elsewhere is a case of Invisible Walls.
Averted on the SNES retro maps that appear in Mario Kart DS, as all barriers from those levels are changed to cubes from squares.
Most racing games have the track walled in by insurmountable adamantium barriers; even the "plastic netting" is impenetrable. Sometimes, as in the Test Drive games, there will be open intersections with cross traffic, but they are blocked to you by Invisible Walls. Said invisible walls also usually prevent you from jumping off the track to your doom. Subverted in Need for Speed II, where you can accidentally fall off into "the void" on the last two tracks.
Gran Turismo IV has particularly strong plastic fences. On the Grand Canyon rally course, part of the course travels along the very edge of a cliff with only a foot-tall plastic home depot orange netting keeping a runaway car (or Truck) from careening off the edge. Somehow this flimsy-looking fencing handles the task incredibly well, even so far as bringing a full size Dodge Ram truck doing well over freeway speed to a dead stop.
On some tracks in Gran Turismo 3, you can glitch your way through the barrier. If you go too far out of bounds, the game freezes.
On a more interesting note, Gran Turismo 5 now includes Tire Barriers (one course that has them in conspicuous view is the new Top Gear Test Track). In Real Life they are flexible enough to bend or collapse in order to cushion the impact of a major crash. But here, not only can they bring even the heaviest cars to an instant dead stop, they absolutely won't budge.
And speaking of the Top Gear Test Track, the track itself may appear to be a Wide Open Sandbox with no fences around the airfield, but some of the challenges put in a case of Racing Line of Instant Death where if you deviate too much from the racing line (a window that can be really narrow, making it really tough to overtake opponents), the game ends by disqualifying you.
Need for Speed series: In most of the games, you hit an invisible barrier if you try to jump the fence, but in the later tracks of II, there are spots where you can jump the barrier and fall into Bottomless Pits.
In Need for Speed Hot Pursuit (2010), some of the tracks have shortcuts blocked off by glowing force fields. While this could be hand waved as a gentleman's agreement amongst the racers, the police chasing them are similarly barred from using them for not good reason.
The series used the "force fields" since Underground, ditto for other semi-open world racing series.
In Vette, large sections of San Francisco are blocked off by insurmountable fences, some waist height (No, you can't jump over them with low gravity, either). Handwaved in the manual as being due to "earthquake damage". It was also probably done to reduce memory usage, since the city is divided into boroughs/districts connected only by sparsely-detailed freeways.
Real Time Strategy
Travians: The game concept appears to be made entirely around this trope and Broken Bridge. You can't deviate from little paths that run everywhere, even to cross entirely empty fields so as to bypass the wagon blocking the path. You can't use the axe you got to chop wood to chop the beech tree, and the special axe you get to chop the beech tree you can't use to chop either a small branch blocking one road or a fallen tree blocking another. (This despite the fact that the special axe is specifically given to you more than a one-use item, so it presumably has other uses down the line.) And you can walk through woody areas if the game lets you but not less densely wooded areas if the game really wants you to take the path around.
Pikmin 2 has short rocks in some of the caves. But in this game, you can't jump.
Patapon has a strange (and often outrageous) variation of this. Toripons fly very high when in Fever mode; high enough to not be hit by some spear and Megapon attacks, and to completely ignore some of the bosses's attacks. But for some reason, they cannot fly over any obstacles; be it stone walls or the low wooden fences and even enemies, so you have to destroy said obstacle in order for them to advance.
Happens in your favour in Lego Rock Band. Your band knocks down a narrow tree which stops a 40ft tall robotic T-Rex in its tracks.
Averted in NetHack, where you can do things like use pick-axes to laboriously dig through the dungeon rock to make new paths. This is coupled with being able to break down doors and generally destroy most of the environment if you have enough resources to do so. (Though be careful if there's a shopkeeper on the other side of the door!) Note that the edges of the two-dimensional world still qualify as an Invisible Wall.
In Alpha Man, a comedy Roguelike similar to NetHack, if the player has a jackhammer, he/she can sometimes jack through the exterior walls of a building. When that happens, the player can walk the black void of the outside of the house, and if they leave the screen, they're taken out of the house to the land near the house. Also sort of an example of Super Drowning Skills, because without a wetsuit, raft, kayak, or something similar, the player drowns in deep water.
Role Playing Game
Most MMORPGs will make use of this, applied to NPCs. Just threw a rock at a merchant and are now fleeing the entire, bizarrely powerful legion of town guards? Simply cross the magical loading-screen border between the Town of Generica and the Generican Prarie immediately bordering it on the right, and not only will you lose every last pursuer; they'll cease to exist in your reality.
Star Trek Online has one prominent example. On the Starfleet Academy map you are not able to access the waterfront which is only separated by literal waist-height fence. Under normal circumstances your character would even be able to jump over it. However, when the area was first released there was a bug that transported you on the other side of the fence and let you explore the area beyond it - including the Golden Gate Bridge and the normally inaccessible shuttlebay atop one of the Academy's buildings.
Phantasy Star Universe has waist high fences in lobby areas regularly. What makes them so evil? Unlike most insurmountable waist high fences, where there is a way around, or nothing on the other side of interest, these fences REALLY DO have content on the other side that you can't get to. SEGA unlocks content, which already exists and was installed with the game, over time, letting them profit on your monthly fees; so you pay money for a few months in the hopes they'll yank down that fence. It's just cruel.
In a less evil sense, there are the laser fences on the field. Which are about waist high, and often positioned in a way where, even if your characters forget how they were jumping around like lunatics during their photon arts, may still be easily bypassed by either climbing over the control panel used to open them, or in some cases, just stepping around it onto a slightly higher part of the staircase than you'd normally use.
The old RPG Robinson's Requiem abused this trope to death. There were multiple occurrences of Frictionless Hills, Indestructible Logs, One Inch Too High Ledges, and perhaps most annoyingly Gentle Slopes of Unclimbability that sometimes required you to go through caves, jungles and deserts to get to the other side. It was even more maddening when you consider the Slope was 5 meters long and with a 20 degree incline.
The 3D Final Fantasy games generally lack any kind of parkour or jumping, making even the slightest ridge an effective barrier — though the player can jump in Final Fantasy X-2, which has the interesting effect that the same geography which had appeared in Final Fantasy X could, in places, be approached differently, sometimes allowing new areas to be seamlessly integrated into existing locations. Conversely, areas that required swimming in FFX are no longer accessible in FFX-2. Final Fantasy XII, however, is full of them, including the Knee Deep Water of Uncrossability and the Indestructible Fallen Log. Apparently being able to rend the very fabric of space and time with your magic isn't enough to budge an overgrown twig.
Final Fantasy XI also contains some particularly irritating examples of this. They don't mark the end of the game world, nor are they a plot element - they just make it take a couple more minutes to get from place to place.
Like that accursed rock in Qufim Island that doesn't let players pass between it in the wall, despite there being clearly enough space to do so, and forces them to instead go around the other side and just hope they don't get killed by the living weapon waiting within hearing range. Anyone who plays FFXI knows what I'm talking about.
Worse than the accursed rock in Qufim Island, there is the tiny, almost unnoticeable ledge by the final Notorious Monster tower in Dynamis - Xarcabard that while being only two or three ilms (in game term for an inch) high, far smaller than any character's stride, somehow it is as insurmountable as it it were the tallest cliff face.
Inverted for NPC enemies, which can actually walk up VERTICAL CLIFF FACES to reach your player.
In Final Fantasy IX it is actually impossible (at least while exploring the Alexandrian castle in the timed sequence) to step from the paved sidewalk in front of the west tower onto the lawn right next to it. That blades of grass could be an insurmountable obstacle for anyone is a bother.
Final Fantasy VII sees our mighty, god-summoning heroes barred by a room full of cats.
The buggy vehicle in this game's entire purpose in this game is essentially to cross the Knee Deep Stream of Uncrossability. It is hilariously lampshaded in thiswebcomic.
In the 5th year of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, the Jegon River is dried up, so the boat can't ferry you across it. However, it becomes so narrow that you should be able to easily jump it or even wade through it. Instead, you have to go all the way north to Veo Lu Sluice and revive the flowers that provide the river with water.
In Final Fantasy XIII your characters can jump clear over large obstacles and wide pits... when the level designers want you to. The game has to mark places where the obstacles are not insurmountable with little glowing circles, because your ability to jump over something has little to do with its size. Played even more straight with land based enemies, who can't jump even at the marked places.
The Besaid coast in Final Fantasy X, in which a magical invisible wall is apparently present in the ocean. Especially grim since the mini-map goes significantly beyond this point.
The Xenosaga series has a particularly stupid example of this. Players will enter areas in their extremely large mecha, but solve a puzzle in order to circumvent a two-foot barrier. This is despite the fact that these robots fly during battle.
An even stupider combination of this and Broken Bridge appears in Xenogears. A small child accidentally leaves her stuffed animal in front of the door to the bridge of your sandship. This makes it completely impossible to enter the bridge until you find her and get her to move it. Even worse, the characters immediately declare this to each other.
Even worse is the Tower of Babel. A large, tall, completely hollow tower that your characters have to ascend in their Gears, which, of course, are capable of flight... and yet they make the entire ascent on foot. It is official: the cast of Xenogears is Too Dumb to Live.
In the game Koudelka, the titular character justifies her unwillingness to go over a relatively short fence due to her modesty, one of the very few instances where this phenomenon is addressed in a way consistent with the setting and explained plausibly. Still, you'd think somebody so concerned about modesty wouldn't have dressed like that to begin with...
In Marvel Ultimate Alliance, various areas are blocked off by rubble etc., which shouldn't hold too much difficulty for a group of Marvel superheroes. Not only that, but sometimes characters who can fly can completely surmount the barrier, only to find an Invisible Wall.
This also comes up in the boss fight against the giant Arcadebot, which requires players to shoot themselves out of a cannon to reach the robot's weak point, rather than simply flying up there.
In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion it is possible, through the use of multiply stacked buffs, to attain superhuman "Acrobatics" skill levels, at which point the use of Invisible Walls by the game designers becomes apparent, e.g. when the player cannot cross some pieces of rubble, despite obviously clearing them by a huge margin. On the other hand, even an unmodified Acrobatics skill, in the upper ranges of what is normally attainable, enables the player to reach the roof tops in several of the cities, and from there the city walls and thus the outside of the city - which should have been kept inaccessible, since this reveals that outside world is only an empty, low-resolution copy of the proper game world, which one reaches by exiting through the gates. In the expansion pack Shivering Isles some of the guardians patrolling the landscape are stymied by a combination of ankle deep water - which they refused to cross - and a slope that was just too steep to be climbed at their normal walking speed, so that they ended up treading in place for minutes on end.
This is a major step backwards from Morrowind, where you could climb, jump, or levitate over any barrier, and wade, swim, or walk across any body of water.
In Nehrim (a game based on total conversion of Oblivion), not only are the transparent walls quite prevalent, the authors were quite fond of using "Ledge of Instant Death", sometimes becoming a "Gentle Slope of Instant Death" of "Flat Path of Instant Death". (After the initial cave, as the only path transfers from ledge to ravine, you can turn right crossing through some knee-high bushes (without even jumping), walk towards the waterfall and die for no visible reason at all.)
The literal insurmountable waist-high fence in Paper Mario. Early in the game, when you first get to Toad Town, you'll see a Star Piece on the other side of a fence. You can't get past it until you get Sushie 5 chapters later, even though you can jump higher than the fence itself.
In Goomba Village, Kammy taunts Mario, and drops a Yellow Block on the gate out. Even though Mario can easily jump higher than the nose-high fencing, he can't actually jump over. Same with the fence at the bottom of the cliff the Goomba house is built on: it, too, is blocked with a Yellow Block, and you can't jump the fence. But in both cases, this is a good thing, as if the game didn't force you to get the Hammer, you'd be stopped by later obstacles and unable to harm some of even the earliest enemies.
Due to Strong as They Need to Be and Cutscene Power to the Max, Mario will be unable to jump over obstacles unaided that he would have been more than capable of jumping over unaided in other games, and/or still not be able to do the same despite demonstrating the ability to jump significantly higher than said obstacle in cutscenes or in battle in the very same game.
Another ridiculous example is in the Old Château and the Canalave Library in Pokémon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum, where you can't step over books.
Not to mention the trees. They're thin, but you still have to use Cut on the saplings.
Although as of X and Y, they now appear as large, thorny brambles that really would be a pain to go through.
In Terranigma, you can jump. Sometimes you can jump over gaps. Other times, you run into an invisible wall. Sometimes you can jump down deep holes in the ground. Other times, you just take damage and are put back where you fell from. Still other times, you hit invisible walls. The only way to find out is to try.
The most excessive example of this comes from Baten Kaitos. In this game world, everyone has wings. Everyone. There's a lot of nifty flying animation in battle, and yet you still get the same variety of jumping and bridging puzzles that would be completely passable if you thought to fly outside of battle when it was useful, rather than when it just looked cool.
Eternal Wings makes a flimsy justification, then Origins explains it better; the wings used to be powerful enough to fly around all the time, but they have atrophied greatly over the years. Trying to use them for anything more than a few seconds results in the wings giving out. There's a reason these people use flying boats to get around. Granted, this still doesn't excuse Kalas turning around in Moonguile Forest because a log is blocking his path.
Apparently, this is so well-known that audiences at GDC '08 actually laughed when they saw a character in the upcoming Fable II simply jump over a waist-high fence.
Which will be a relief, as the original Fable was absolutely full of insurmountable fences, rivers, edges, invisible walls, weeds, etc.
The fence problem may be largely gone but I've run into quite a few Gentle Slopes of Impassability.
Breath of Fire III puts you on a diversion that seems like it takes up a third of the game, simply to get around one of these fences.
Specifically, it forces you to go through the Guide Dang It that is the Desert of Death to get to the final dungeon because your party, who often hop down cliffs exponentially taller than them, can't hop down off a crate barely as tall as Garr.
Lampshade Hanging in the online game Graal Classic, when Kull's Castle blocked certain doors with impassable Bottles. Your character is even heard to remark "I can't go this way - there's a bottle in the way!"
In the Golden Sun games, your path is often blocked by lines of pebbles.
Parodied in Altin Mines in the first game, where a monster leaps up a cliff face to get around a puddle of water.
Eternal Sonata features some insurmountable sticks on the ground, especially in Mt. Rock. Oddly enough, standing behind one of these sticks will cause an enemy on the other side of the stick to be seemingly unable to see you.
City of Heroes has incidental obstacles such as vehicles, telephone poles, shelving, dumpsters, garbage cans, and cardboard boxes that your level 50 SUPER STRENGTH endowed Flying Brick cannot even SCRATCH, much less move... and if you try and jump aboard a moving car, a boat, or try to land atop the blimp that circles Atlas Park, you slide off as if your feet were buttered.
Lets not forget the Insurmountable Senior Citizens, from City of Heroes. You Super Hero can run fast enough to send a Delorian back in time, but will come to a complete stop should you run head-long into a random passerby (generally with your feet still running-in-place). Hand Waved as "it wouldn't be very heroic for your Super Hero to knock Grandma down while you're attempting to avert today's apocalypse."
Frequently averted in other instances, though - the devs actually commented that it was harder than usual to design environments for the game, as the various movement powers limited almost every instance of Insurmountable Waist High Fences that could be imagined. Instead, you had Insurmountable Impossibly High Walls of Energy separating the zones from one another, and an almost literal Glass Ceiling above the zones keeping you from flying over them.
Fences in the MMO Runescape are sometimes not even waist high and yet a character can not go over them. There are certain spots where a character with high enough agility can cross by climbing over. Other than those, though, you basically have to go around the long way in order to get where you want to go. And some of these fences seem to cross entire continents!
And the uncrossable water appears as well. The several rivers that appear in the game are all uncrossable despite being a few feet wide and inches deep. And the PC is shown many times in the game to be capable of swimming, including in a couple of fairly large areas that are underwater, yet cannot cross these very small rivers. On the other side, the PC claims that every accident including falling into water causes him/her to drown, even with the Diving Apparatus on. And, luckily, monsters also can't cross such obstacles, but some can be shot over. Coupled with the mobs' lack of any sophisticated pathing mechanics, you can get them stuck on the other side of a rock that is perfectly possible to walk around and shoot them to death.
One of the most awkward examples is on the border between a "F2P" area and a "P2P" area. There's a large hill keeping you in the wilderness, and out of the eastern member area. Just a large hill. A small bug in one part of it even lets you walk up to the top, then you just stop. Invisible insurmountable fence?
Rune Factory 2 has particularly bad examples of these. The game blocks your way with fences that are waist high, are falling apart, are made out of cheap wood, and are just wide enough to block your path. What's worse, they are located in totally random areas. They're not on the border of some person's property. They are not separating town areas from monster infested areas. In some cases, they aren't even part of a wall. Literally, the only reason they're there is to block the main character's path.
The MMORPG Ryzom is full of these, both of the waist high fence and invisible wall varieties. The invisible walls can be particularly aggravating, as anything steeper than a very gentle slope seems to have one.
Skies of Arcadia has Insurmountable Dark Patches Of Sand keeping you from straying from the path connecting the two halves of the town of Maramba.
ZOMG features several Insurmountable Waist High Fences. The stairs out of the Train Station are chained off, forcing you to fight your way through the Sewers (which also serves as the game's tutorial). Of course, the doors out of the station are locked too, and jumping the gate would mean missing out getting the rings you need to get any farther than Barton Town. Though when you can't step over a 2 inch ledge in the Zen Gardens, you start to suspect something...
Mostly whenever you see a fence in From Software's Evergrace, it's to keep you from dying as the other side is either a puddle of water or a drop off a cliff. This in turn marks one of the few times you'll wish for this trope's existence, since falling off of anything means your doom. In the bonus dungeon, there are no fences, but there are a HECK of a lot of enemies with knockback. Which turns a simple challenging dungeon Nintendo Hard instantaneously. Later on, it gains floors which turn from invisible to visible and back, slowly, enemies can come onto them, and there's STILL no fences to save you.
In Mass Effect 1, while driving the Mako on story worlds, the Gentle Slope of Unclimbability is made the more obvious, since on non-story worlds you can make it climb almost any mountain no matter how steep, while on story worlds you are confined to narrow valleys with walls much gentler and you still come rolling down from them. One time, there is even a Insurmountable Waist Height Fence in the form of a big boulder, that should make it impossible to go further with the Mako, but with some good positioning you can jump over it, leading to a glitch.
On Feros there's a steep drop-off leading into a level, and a party member refers to it as a one-way drop. It's farther than a human is tall, so while the heavily armored Shepard on his/her own might not be able to get back up, what keeps party members from helping?
In Mass Effect 2, when you're recruiting Tali on Haestrom, rubble blocks your way until you find nearby demolition charges; while it's as large as you, you've been shown performing athletic stunts before that should make simply climbing up a lot easier than fighting your way through all those geth. And naturally, you can't clear the blockage by shooting it, even with the nuke launcher.
On the other hand, apparently the Lazarus Project finally taught Shepard how to jump over waist-high obstacles. But, of course, only in places where you're supposed to do so.
Another example in Mass Effect 2 is the Omega 4 relay itself. The game clearly states that many ships had tried to venture beyond the relay and never returned, implying that you should still be able to use the relay, though it might be result in an instant death on the other side. The game will only allow you use the relay, a key plot point, once you have progressed far enough in the game to obtain the key to passing safely.
Same in Mass Effect 3, particularly some fences on the Citadel. And some invisible walls on the Multiplayer maps preventing you from jumping to your death... but enemies can use jet-packs to jump up from somewhere below.
Sweet Home takes this to ridiculous levels. Rope on the floor? You'll need Kazou's lighter to get by it. Shards of broken glass? Asuka's vacuum is the only way around that. Shallow ditch in the ground? You need a board to cross it. This is despite the fact that the characters are all capable of walking through rushing streams, thorny bushes, piles of still-moving bodies, and even raging infernos.
World of Warcraft's environment is largely immune from the damaging attacks of Player characters, and it has even become a selling point of the latest expansion dungeon, that there are vehicles which can destroy parts of the internal dungeon's defenses. The most straightforward application of this is usually in a major city where there is a door visible, but no means of which to enter, or out in the less populated areas, where there will be a visible portal, which leads to nowhere, or cannot be entered at all. In the latter case, its usually a sign of a possible future dungeon entrance. Players who circumvent these barriers through glitches could be equally punished or rewarded by the GMs (As some sections are clearly NOT meant for the player to get to, while others serve as more of an Easter Egg bonus).
This problem will also frequently occur with player pets. No matter how small a fence or ledge is, if the player has to jump to scale it, there's a good chance your pet won't be able to. This can cause them to either get stuck, requiring the player to dismiss and resummon them, or sometimes try to find an alternate route around the obstacle which can lead to unwanted (though often amusing) pulls. Even pets that can fly will do it.
World of Warcraft also has bizarre movement behavior related to PCs being either being able or not able to walk up gradients of differing slopes. While some slopes are always far too steep to ever be climbed by a PC, other slopes will either be passable or impassable simply based on whether or not the PC should be able to pass over that area, regardless of the fact that two terrains might have the exact same slope. In fact, there are passable terrains in the game that a significantly greater in slope than many impassable terrains.
In Ironforge, the pit part of the forge is only blocked by an invisible barrier from the perimeter, but not pathway going over said pit.
In an example of the "Ledge of Instant Death", there are several places where the game limits your ability to explore by killing you instantly if you fall below a certain point— regardless of whether you actually fell far enough to be killed, or had any Slow Fall effects, or even fell at all! The terrain beneath the airship at the end of the Halls of Reflection is an example of this type; travel far enough down the slope, and you will drop dead regardless of whether or not you actually fell.
The Cataclysm expansion averts and plays straight the trope. During development, the developers admitted that a lot of the geometry in the original World of Warcraft simply wasn't there, and they had to put unclimbable terrain in the way so players couldn't get there. With Cataclysm, players can now fly in the original world, so Blizzard had to completely rebuild it from the ground up in such a way that the entire world was accessible via flight. However there are still unclimbable slopes if you are not riding a flying mount.
Of course, even with a flying mount, there are still a handful of invisible walls, like in the mountains north of the Plaguelands, which blocks players from flying in, and forces them to enter via the gate, because the whole area is classed as an Instance.
Patch 5.1 added the Ledge of Instant Death variety in the version of Dalaran visited during the Landfall storyline. Unlike the main world Dalaran, which is stuck in the past in Northrend, this version is an instance, so if you jump off its ledge into surrounding water that looks safe to jump into (normally, landing in water negates falling damage), you die while falling, in midair.
In Mother 3, if you attempt to exit the first area of the game (which is the area around Alec's home), or try to go to Argilla Pass before you're supposed to, you will bump into an invisible wall and receive a message that reads, "There are ants at your feet. You might accidentally step on them, so please don't continue in that direction." Ants.
This is just an example of the series' quirky humor. It's parody if anything.
Considering the fact that in the Mother universe insects, including ants, apparently have the ability to kick the asses of up to 4 kids several hundred times larger than them, maybe it's a good idea to err on the safe side...
In the MMORPG Mabinogi, some areas are littered with waist-high — and even knee-high or ankle-high — insurmountable obstacles; mostly fences, bushes, and rocks. The truly odd thing is that some areas have very low bushes which are insurmountable, while other areas have much taller bushes that characters can walk right through. This may be partly intentional; as it presents an obstacle to bots using the game's auto-walk map system.
Fences we can understand. Fences that a paper airplane cannot go over, not so much. Especially since the best places to launch the airplanes are always blocked by fences.
In Spiderweb Software's Geneforge series of games, no matter how powerful your character gets, he is never able to break through/into relatively flimsy doors and cabinets. However, he is still able to pick the locks on such, using a combination of mechanical skills and "living tools".
If your build is invested in magic, an Unlock spell does it better for cheaper. But many map borders and bottlenecks are still formed of waist-high fences, knee-deep water, and ankle-high debris.
In World of Mana, it's sometimes rather difficult to tell the difference between regular backgrounds and impassable ones, so it occasionally looks like your progress is balked by slightly gritty dirt. Additionally, in Seiken Densetsu 3 you're blocked by an insurmountable optical illusion that you can't get around unless you talk to the right NPC and then use the Lumina element on said illusion.
In Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, a good chunk of the game is spent collecting the magical MacGuffins needed to get past the barriers blocking Peach's castle, completely ignoring the fact the barriers only block the bridge and not the very wide area on either side of it, and you have someone who can both fly and carry both Mario and Luigi effortlessly.
It also has a pretty widespread example in Bowser himself as a playable character; since he can't jump, half his adventuring has you try and figure out ways round very small ledges that Mario and Luigi themselves can simply jump right over.
Actually, Bowser can jump when he gains the Shell Slam ability, but only straight up into the air, and several times higher than the ankle high ledges.
Rogue Galaxy is basically based on this. If there's a huge, open door in front of you but the room within it isn't displated on the map you CAN'T get in. There's even a part where, after crossing a very long maze-like path across a mine you come to a point where the short way can connect directly to the elevator leading to the next level, but you have to turn around and take the longest possible way 'cause there's a rock on the way.
Also, in the desert planet Rosa, you have to get to some ancient ruins that are visible from the city's gates. And you are forced by invisible walls and unclimbable mounds of sand to take a complicated coiling road plagued with monsters instead of just freakin' running in a straight line towards the ruins.
The Witcher is a fairly standard feet-stuck-to-the-floor variety, which in itself is nothing remarkable. What makes it annoying is that in the intro Geralt is shown as having acrobatic prowess comparable to Altair.
Though it gets particularly annoying when you find he can't even step over stray pumpkins lying in his path.
Dragon Age: Origins pulled this one. Particularly egregious in the Human Noble origin story, when your path was blocked by Insurmountable Ankle-Height Rubble. Even "better", the collision detection with said rubble is off just enough that, when you try to cross it, your feet are coming down on top of the very obstacle that "impedes" your progress.
Multiple games in the Tales Series call undue attention to this trope by having characters able to jump several times their own height... but only in battle.
Tales of Symphonia has a puzzle room in zero gravity. No, you still can't climb over the waist-high obstacles.
Also, when the Ymir fruit drops off a tree. It's only a couple of feet away in some seemingly shallow water, one of the party characters has wings, and you STILL have to go through a ridiculous animal-calling puzzle to push it to shore halfway across the map.
Tales of Phantasia has the infamous crab in Alvanista that blocks the player from getting a chest. The only way to get this treasure is by waiting for the crab to walk out, then when it tries to go back, go talk to it to make it stop, and repeat. Curiously, this is the only crab sprite in the game that the player cannot go through. Why couldn't Cless just slay this demonic crab? No one knows.
Also, when walking around as Arche (possible in later remakes), she seems to float around on her broom when "running." She still gets hurt by tiny floor spikes.
Guild Wars is literally founded on this as there is no jump mechanic, meaning a pebble will stop you in your place.
Star Ocean: The Second Story features a short trip through a swampified forest early on. When you approach a marshy area, the hero will say "It's impossible to go further," and won't budge. An NPC actually gives you boots specifically for crossing the marshes just before you set out, making this something of a head scratcher. It's never explained that the boots are an equippable item, and that they must be worn in the "Greaves" slot by one of your characters. It would definitely stymie a first-time player, especially when all the other Plot Coupons in the game are treated as key items.
You can't climb anything that isn't a ladder in Dark Souls.
The Legend of Dragoon as a not even waist high example in the form of a sleeping house cat blocking an entrance, which is only passable when the cat is lured away with food rather than, say, just stepping over the cat or shooing it away.
Mostly averted in Might & Magic 6 though 8, where even cliff faces that may have been intended to be examples of this trope can mostly be climbed, albeit very slowly, from the very beginning of the game, or failing that ascended bit by bit with the Jump spell, which you usually get fairly early. Many areas that a lot of players seem to think you need to be able to fly to reach, in reality, require nothing more than patience.
In earlier games in the series, lots of terrain obstacles start out being this - rivers, mountains, heavier forests - only to cease being examples as soon as enough people in the party get the appropriate skill for traversing them.
The ninth (and last official) game in the series, on the other hand, is filled to bursting with straight examples of this trope. Since it was released as essentially a beta, its list of annoying features is long, but this is near the top.
Want to know where the invisible walls are in Dragon Fable? That's easy - just keep an eye out for lamp posts, columns, trees, and other vertically-oriented structures placed in the foreground. Apparently, structures in the foreground come with some kind of force field magic that makes it impossible to simply walk past them.
The Sims in The Sims and its sequel cannot pass between squares separated by walls or fences, which led to the ridiculous experience of surrounding a Sim with an ankle-high white picket fence and watching him starve to death, unable to cross it. As a means of a "fix", The Sims 2 includes higher-than-waist fences only.
Sims 2 sims cannot climb out of a pool without a ladder. They would sooner drown than simply climb up the ledge that's only inches above the water line.
Sims are also unable to escape when surrounded by pink-flamingo lawn ornaments.
The insurmountable objects (fences, bushes, plant, etc) even apply when the Sim is above them i.e. put a bush next to the bed while the sim is sleeping and they will be unable to get out of the bed when they wake up, even if the bed is taller than the unpassable object. And since the Sims can't die in bed this leads to an endless loop of them trying and failing to get out of bed even after they should have starved to death.
My Sims has a number of areas blocked off by being boarded up, having a fallen log across the path, having a random pile of rocks in the way, or there being a metal door there. You start the game with an axe. You cannot use it to chop down the boards or chop up the logs; you have to wait until you get the crowbar and saw, respectively. You cannot climb over the rocks, or over the fence into the desert. You have to earn the pickaxe first. At one point, a door blocks a bridge with no rails on it. You can enter the water in most places where it exists, but you cannot pull yourself out of it onto the bridge. Looks like earning the blowtorch is the only way to go...
Sims 3 somewhat fixes this, with Sims now being able to get out of pools without using a ladder, as well as having small ankle-high fences that Sims can cross. The waist-high fences remain insurmountable, though.
This article greatly illustrates the absurdity of the waist high fence on a couple different occasions. Surrounding his Sim's home with said fence, Firefighters are unable to reach the house when it catches on fire and are forced to stand around and watch it burn. Later, Child Services arrives to remove a child from the home. The Child Services agent is able to teleport into the home to remove the baby, but then is unable to leave because of the fence.
Black & White 2 creatures, despite being over one hundred feet tall when fully grown, cannot step over houses less than a quarter of their height.
In Dwarf Fortress, due to the ASCII nature of the game, any wall your little dorfs build count as these. Even to giants. Walls and various other constructions of the same type are absolutely undestructible in the current version of the game. Gets even sillier when you realise that fortifications (usually found on top of said walls) work as these too while allowing dorfs to fire things from behind them (if the fortifications are sufficiently submerged in water or lava, swimming creatures can pass them). Flying creatures can still bypass them.
They're not walls per se, but trees are strangely impassable obstacles. A dwarf can wind up starving to death if the only path to a place has a sapling in it that ticks over to "mature tree" while he's on the other side of it.
Partially justified in the game Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee. Munch is a Gabbit, a one-legged amphibian, and though he can jump more than six feet out of the water, any attempt to jump on land just makes him fall flat on his face. Abe, on the other hand, is a ground-dwelling Mudokon, and can jump really high on the ground (though he has Super Drowning Skills, and can only touch water for a few seconds before dying). However, other Mudokons are too stupid and lazy to jump over a waist high fence, they have to be picked up one by one (by the ass) and thrown over fences. Munch can also clear small fences by jumping over them in his wheelchair, or getting a boost from Abe.
Thief subverts this in several ways — a locked door can be picked if you don't have the key. If you just suck at picking locks (some are harder than others), your sword can bash the (wooden) door into oblivion — as long as you don't mind every guard coming to investigate the racket.
Fans of the first two games were unpleasantly surprised by Thief: Deadly Shadows turning bodies of water more than ankle-deep into deathtraps, surprising because in the first games, not only could master thief Garrett swim, it was required for several missions. Somehow Garrett forgot how to swim in his journey to Deadly Shadows.
In Deadly Shadows, once you acquire the climbing gloves, you can climb brick or stone walls till your hearts content, unless there is a wooden beam thicker than four inches blocking your way.
Metal Gear Solid has one specific moment where this is gratingly apparent. The protagonist Solid Snake, a veteran special forces soldier, runs down the stairs in a tower for several floors, only to be thwarted when the bottom five feet of the stairs have collapsed. Any normal adult could easily drop down that height without injury. Rather than doing so, Snake opts to climb back to the top of the tower and fight a Hind-D while Otacon fixes up the elevator.
Metal Gear Solid 2 has Raiden winding his way through a labyrinthine machine for several minutes when the actual goal, a button or lever of some sort, would have been reachable by stepping over a pipe on the ground and leaning in.
In one level of the fourth game, choosing to backtrack into the building you just exited is physically impossible. Apparently, this one side of the building is capable of withstanding bullets, grenades, C4, missile launchers, and even rail gun fire.
Sam Fisher in Splinter Cell is a master infiltrator who can surmount most obstacles with ease... unless said obstacle is door with cleaning equipment in front of it. In some cases, the high-tech pick of Fisher is hindered by nothing but a mere broom.
Eternal Darkness has a couple of puzzles where the door can only be opened by solving two puzzles. However, solving the first opens the door to just under head height, making the completely land based characters seem even more stupid. It's easy to justify with the fat characters and squishy priest, but the more physically active characters have no excuse.
Also justified by the doors of impassibility in that either the characters don't want to leave or are physically incapable of manipulating the door or getting to the exit.
They also have very liberal use of the Unclearable Debris type, although since you spend half your time in crumbling temples, its a bit more justified.
In the Resident Evil game series the protagonists, even though they are either well trained members of the Raccoon City Police's special task-force S.T.A.R.S. and/or are able to perform insane stunts like jumping down stairs while fetching a gun in mid-air and shoot gas tanks to take out an entire team of evil grunts one-handed, are overstrained when facing old, battered wooden (read: adamantium) doors they don't have the right key for. This trope becomes especially comical if the player is circled by a pack of zombies who will tear him apart any second and his only escape route would be through an old rusty garden gate, but he'd rather stop any attempts of escaping saying to himself "It's locked. I don't have the right key to open it". Further, in numerous cut-scenes the protagonists find themselves in exactly the same situation, but will then suddenly remember their training back at the police academy and simply breach the door which leads to their escape route.
This gets even more ridiculous in the first Resident Evil game, where Jill Valentine, ex-Delta Force and current S.T.A.R.S member, complete with pistols, machine guns, and even rocket launchers, is equipped with a lock-pick and has been dubbed "The Master of Unlocking", still cannot go through the very same wooden doors. It gets even more absurd when a cut-scene in the game which shows Jill trapped in a locked room, ie the "Jill Sandwich" Descending Ceiling room, being rescued by another member who promptly just shoots the lock off the door to rescue her.
The novelization justified it by stating that the locks that needed a key were reinforced locks that made lockpicking useless (Jill even comments that she never saw that type of lock before).
Not to mention the doors that require obscure objects to open them. Why would the protagonists go searching for a blue jewel or a silver crest, when they can just kick the door down instead?
Resident Evil 4 however, with its redefined control scheme, makes it easy to just hit the Action button to jump over any sufficiently low fence when prompted. Of course, this only serves to make the game's proper insurmountable waist height fences more jarring when you have to perform an irritating Fetch Quest for a gate key instead of just jumping over the gate. On the plus side, a lot of non-plot-critical locked doors can be kicked down or blown open with a weapon, so it's a small step in the right direction.
Even worse was the 'Separate Ways' bonus chapters present in the PS2 and subsequent versions of the game, in which you get to play as Ada Wong. The girl with the Zelda-style hookshot that can attach to anything, even hundreds of yards away. Since the device was entirely governed by action commands, the game just dictated when you could zip over obstacles, and when you had to run off on a 16-room detour.
In Resident Evil 5, there's a Light and Mirrors Puzzle wherein the light kills you, and you have to figure out a way to point it where you want without blocking yourself in, ignoring the fact that you could easily get on the ground and crawl under the light.
There's the scene where you have to wander around on a moving conveyor belt leading to an incinerator and littered with half-dead zombies, in order to get round a metal crate that barely comes up to shoulder height on the protagonist, who is strong enough to move a boulder several times his size by punching it, but apparently can't lift his own body weight a few feet. To make it worse, the only thing preventing the heroes from going around the box is a handrail.
In that same area, rails that aren't even ankle-high stop you from jumping off of a conveyor belt even though you did a knee-high jump to get on it in the first place & will do another one to get off.
Like Resident Evil 4, the plot decides what waist-height objects you can and can't climb on.
After the second battle with the Grave Digger worm in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, a fallen piece of fencing conveniently allows you to climb over a previously insurmountable rock. Although the rock looks like she could have climbed over it without the aid of the fence.
In Resident Evil 6, Leon and Helena are attempting to go through a hallway that includes a metal detector. The metal detector only takes up half of the hallway's width, with the other part being impeded by a desk. The exact same model as the desks you've been easily vaulting over at will since the beginning of the game. But this desk? Oh, no no no. It's too much of an obstacle. Your weapon-laden characters have no other option but to blunder through the metal detector, set off every alarm in the building, and draw dozens of zombies to their position.
Happens a lot in Drakengard, especially in any scenes involving ruins or recently-destroyed buildings.
Silent Hill hits this one early on. In most outdoor areas, you're navigating a map to try to get from point A to point B, but many of the roads are blocked, either by Bottomless Pits or insurmountable roadblocks. At one point in the second game, you're stopped by police caution tape. Yes, your character cannot get past police caution tape. Oddly, he is able to climb through a broken gate at one point.
Major example: After Central Silent Hill changes into the Dark World, Harry is Railroaded through town by larger and larger sections of the map being blocked with Bottomless Pits, until there's nowhere to go but up, where you fight a boss.
This, at least, is justified — Silent Hill is something of a malevolent, passive-aggressive Genius Loci, so randomly-appearing bottomless pits are just one more method in its arsenal of ways to dick around with people who wander in.
In SH2, the above-ground path to the boat launch is blocked by a literal waist-height fence. To get around it, you must go through... the Abyss. And there's a Locked Door barring entrance to that.
Possibly justified in that you do not know that the boat launch is your destination. Your next goal is supposed to be inside the Historical Society building.
One truly bizarre example is when you stop at the ranger station in the woods. It shouldn't take less than 8 seconds to get out of the car, but in the time it took for you to pull up to the cabin and get out, a waist-high snowbank has formed over the back part of your car and in front of you, blocking you from driving either direction. Strangely, the snowbanks tend to be high, but formed in a way that Harry could scale them with a little climbing.
One of the many criticisms that players have for Silent Hill: Downpour is the fact that at the beginning of the game, the main character has one of his paths blocked by a fallen tree. Rather than, I don't know, actually CLIMBING over the tree that appears no more than a foot high, the character just gives up right there and decides to go the opposite direction where the haunted town lies.
As Yahtzee Croshaw pointed out, there's another bit in SH2 where the character "runs around gathering a lighter, a wax doll, and a horseshoe to make a new handle for a trapdoor, all the while obliviously lumping around at least fifteen extremely cumbersome ways you could have pried it open."
In Kuon, there are various times when objects block your path including a small wooden disk, a fallen paper door, and what appears to be a jacket.
Almost every level in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games (at least, the first two). Most of the exterior levels are bordered by flimsy barbwire fences. You can jump over higher things during the game, including climbing a stack of crates over a concrete wall (twice in quick succession) during one of the plot missions in Clear Sky, but the border fences are unjumpable. They do jingle when you bump them, though...
Justified in Disaster Report and Raw Danger, there tend to be police near police tape, and in the middle of disaster areas your characters are rightly afraid their weight will cause even bigger collapses, endangering those below or themselves. The fact one NPC is killed this way doesn't help confidence much. Also, much in the same way as older adventure-type games, FPS-es, and PS1 survival horrors, the movable/destructible bits look obviously 'loose' or shaky or a different colour to draw attention to them. Also similar to those adventure games, the ones you can't currently pass that you need to will give you a vague hint as to why. "This looks like a two person job" or "The edges look sharp. I don't want to touch it with my bare hands."
See also Sigmateam's Alien Shooter, an isometric shooter where the final weapon is some sort of shoulder-fired nuclear-powered gatling gun... which still cannot seem to destroy basic office equipment. Perhaps the aliens should have made their armour out of cheap Chinese plastic instead.
Nightmare Creatures for the N64 had waist high fences that could be destroyed. Or walked upon to get to bonuses. Shoulder high fences were insurmountable by the gymnastic, monster-slaughtering hero... the villain could hop them with impunity.
Syphon Filter: Grate blocking subway ramp? You can't use grenades on it, only C4 will take it down, from the other side. Hedge maze in Washington Park? No, you can't climb over the hedges. Cars blocking the road? Forget about climbing over them. And outside of cutscenes, falling more than about 8-10 feet (the maximum climbing height) kills you instantly.
S4 League, an online TPS, is a rather odd example. While camera glitches that allow shooting from directly behind walls are the most notable "features" of the game, two map-related glitches in the game are in the Colosseum map; if you Anchor (call it a surfboard with a grappling hook) or Fly (using wings) to a certain spot above your spawn point, there's a metal rod that resembles an antenna with clearly enough space between it and the building to shoot or snipe through. However, the game treats this space as a wall for some reason.
Similarly, if you anchor or fly across the space behind the spawn point and land on the other side, there's an invisible wall which you can't move through but oddly enough, you can shoot through it.
In the first Dead Space game, you cannot step off of the tram platform onto the tracks and try to get around that way.
In Orcs Must Die, you can build insurmountable waist height barricades to channel the orcs.
In Metal Slug Defense, sandbags can be placed to hold off enemies. In normal Metal Slug games, players would just jump over them with blazing guns instead.
Jagged Alliance 2 lets you vault over fences and climb any house that has a flat roof. But you can't climb over crates, tables, and pretty much everything else that isn't either a fence or a flat-topped building.
This is more a coding issue than intentional blockage for the most part. Fan-mods fix this up some.
In the Advance Wars series, only one unit can occupy each square of terrain at a time — meaning that *any* unit in a single-square wide chokepoint acts as an indestructible barrier if the unit trying to get through is incapable of attacking said blocking unit. This can lead to a squadron of fighter jets being unable to fly over a submerged submarine.
Then there are pipelines; indestructible terrain (except for the seams) that air units can't even fly over, yet ranged units can fire over them without any problems. Dual Strike shows us the pipes are slightly taller than tanks.
UFO Enemy Unknown features a downplayed example where the fences are climbable, but is odd that your troopers are tough enough to hardly notice stepping off the roof of a two storey building but need a flying suit to get over a dry stone wall. Also, you remember those dragon's teeth concrete blocks they used to slow down tanks in World War 2? In the near future, you will be able to get a similar effect using a picket fence or a box of tomatoes.
Odium has plenty of these, making its turn-based battles somewhat ridiculous. Small piles of junk block movement and bullets alike. You cannot even shoot across gaps.
On Yuzu's 8th day of Devil Survivor: Overclocked, you have to get into the Shomonkai's headquarters, except the door is locked. Just an ordinary sliding glass door, no magical nonsense or special proofing, just... a door. You and your demons are capable of feats of insane strength, up to and including literally casting a nuclear explosion, and yet no character gets the idea to just, y'know, blow it open.
Frozen Synapse: A fair chunk of every single map will consist of waist-high walls that your troops are not smart enough to climb and must go around, unless you have a rocket launcher, in which case you can blow them up by aiming at the full-height wall nearby (not recommended if your troops are within the blast radius). Justified, because your forces are mostly vatforms, intellectually stunted clones whose most advanced skill is the ability to point and shoot; trying to scale a wall of any height is not only beyond their intellectual capacity, but probably includes a significant risk of dying to their own shotgun.
Twisted Metal 2 has a level set in a Dutch tulip field. The field is bordered by a small wooden fence which cannot be destroyed or jumped over, whereas the two sturdy windmills in the field go down easy.
Wide Open Sandbox
Just Cause 2 has these. But they're not for you, oh no. They're for the military. If the Panauan soldiers reach a chain-link fence, they're screwed. They won't climb over, they won't go around, they won't even try and destroy it.
Tony Montana in Scarface: The World is Yours is a clear offender whose trespasses include the One Inch Too High Ledge and the Gentle Slope of Unclimbability. Despite being strong enough to run at a decent clip with a bazooka in hand, he cannot climb out of the deepest end of a wading pool. Also, if you swim too far in the ocean, you get eaten by a shark.
Sid Meier’s Pirates! uses a literal Insurmountable Waist High Fence, to the player's advantage. During the stealth segments of the game, the player can leap over a fence to avoid guards, who, despite being able to see you clearly on the other side, are too fat and lazy to climb over and arrest you.
Every Grand Theft Auto game until San Andreas, along with the later PSP sequels, leading some reviewers to comment on their inferiority.
Even Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto V have these, despite the characters' advanced ability to climb over things. In GTA V there is a ludicrous example: there is a building construction site in downtown Los Santos (the site of the giant crane you need to climb to access a collectable item) where there are two concrete barricades: one red, one grey. The grey one can be jumped over. The red one is virtually identical except for its color, yet the player cannot jump over it in any fashion.
It's not waist-high, but the rubble/debris piles in Fallout 3 are arranged in such a way that any normal person could climb over them. You, however can't.
What makes this worse is that you usually can climb the bottom of the pile, but partway up your progress gets halted, despite the fact that the pile doesn't get any steeper at that point. And there are some (largely identical in appearance) piles you can climb.
There are also innumerable Adamantium Doors, many of which appear to be made of wood... some even with large holes through which a normal person could just reach and unlock the other side. Aggravatingly, the trope is partially inverted in that you can force many doors with your bare hands... but you only get the option if you've got enough Lockpicking skill to open it anyway via the lockpicking Mini-Game. The fact that you get nuclear weapons early in the game never enters into consideration.
Bonus points for most doors in the Fallout universe either being a couple of centuries old, and completely rusted or rotten.
There's even an actual insurmountable waist high fence, in a backyard in Takoma Park. Never mind that the 200-year-old white picket fence is likely so flimsy it could be pushed over, you can't get past it even if you build yourself a ramp. Stupid Invisible Wall...
The main path to Vault 87 has ungodly levels of radiation that will kill the player in a fraction of a second, and the entrance is blocked by a non-functional Adamantium Door anyways.
Fallout: New Vegas has some particularly lazy examples of this; the overworld is cut into cells to ease loading times, and one can only transit between cells at passes. A few of these passes also house beef gates to force the player to follow the plotted line. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell this to the designers who made the visual landscapes, meaning the Courier is often unable to climb two-degree slopes at the edges of cells. In particularly buggy areas such as the area around Nelson, the Courier can end up several dozen feet off the ground by skimming a cell edge. Some of the indoor areas, e.g. Vault 34's main floor, are also divided into sub-areas.
There is a rather confusing case of this in Freeside, the first cell extends out into the second one but only going through the doors takes you to the actual cell. The Cerulean Robotics factory is in about the same area as the gate to the strip and the Ruined Store is around where the Atomic Wrangler is supposed to be. Following the pip boy makes you think you have to go into the second section to visit these places.
There are enough insurmountable gentle slopes in the game world that some players decided to take matters in their own hands, and modded them out. This makes the game considerably easier to sequence break, as with the mod installed the only thing preventing the player from reaching the top of the tallest mountains is a whole lot of hopping. There are also mods that make the lockpicking minigame an option if you happen to have explosives in your arsenal - but they still can't blast open doors not explicitly meant to be openable.
There's even an Impassable Head High Hole in a hallway in the East Central Sewers by "Sweet" Jill's corpse. There's a knee-high pile of rubble in the way, that you can't climb over, because the ceiling is about 6 inches too low. You still can't climb over it even if you're crouching. Made worse by the fact that the giant sewer rats can get over it no problem.
Similarly, one of the MacGuffins for the Still in the Dark quest is on the Oxygen Recycling level of Vault 22, but there's an impassable barricade blocking direct access, forcing you to find a keycard in the Common Areas to unlock the back door to the room from the Food Production level.
The westernmost hallway on the first floor of the REPCONN test facility is blocked by a similar impassable knee-high debris pile.
Lonesome Road has dozens of these, but one of the most blatant is in the main part of the Divide, where a collapsing building creates an insurmountable wall to force a detour through a Tunneler-infested cave, frustrating the player even further with unclimbable rocks and a pile of signs that looks like it could be used as a ramp.
The earlier Fallout games play the trope much more directly. Because of how the game deals with shop inventories many of the merchants in the game have their items stashed in containers on the map just beyond the player's vision and, thanks to various waist-high obstacles, beyond their reach as well. At least one of these inventories in Fallout 2 can be accessed with patient skirting of a waist-high fence, not that it really breaks the game at all.
While the world of Saints Row 2 is fairly open to the player, 'homies' can't climb, meaning that they can't get past an insurmountable knee- high fence.
Saints Row: The Third is no different. You can jump up onto ledges, jump across gaps, but your homies can't physically do it themselves, so they need the game AI to teleport them across to where you are.
Assassin's Creed I justifies it somewhat with areas of the map blocked by blue mist rendered inaccessible until certain events have transpired: the player character is expressly trying to re-visit memories in a way similar to the original, so Sequence Breaking isn't allowed. It's even improved in Assassin's Creed II, where it is physically possible to cross these barriers, but staying on the far side gets you "desynchronized" from the original sequence of events. However, it's played painfully straight with any and all doors in the games, which are never opened by the player character unless he's invited in. Apparently, the best and only way to defend yourself from the best assassins in imagined history is to simply stay behind closed doors. You don't even have to lock them. The need to assassinate one's targets only during specific events in which they are in the open and assassins' guild branches always having an open rooftop entrance may imply that the assassins are somewhat aware of this limitation.
It's often played completely straight in the countryside areas in the series to keep the players from wandering off the map. So often, you have situations in which Ezio, a master acrobat who can climb sheer buildings hundreds of feet high, can't jump to the top of a three-feet high gentle slope.
Just Cause 2 has... issues with this trope. Yes, there is a grappling hook, but our hero Rico Rodriguez's jumping ability is woefully poor, making anything waist high or higher annoyingly difficult to get on top of. Especially if there's nothing above it to grapple onto. Also, the combination of a knee-high fence and a roof 8 feet above said fence creates an impenetrable barrier.
The sequel, however, fixed this, even offering an achievement/trophy for climbing on one of said fences.
Red Dead Redemption has plenty of these. Firstly the main character can't swim, or indeed walk in it if it's above waist height. Then our main character has a pitiful jump which can often lead to your plainly attempting to get over a something if John doesn't automatically climb over it. This becomes very clear when the game bars you from areas of the map by placing them behind a river but it still has bridges across, the only thing keeping John out are a couple of small wooden barriers with plenty of room to the side so you could just walk around them. Then the game is littered with slopes that just a bit too steep to climb up which circles the Sand Box world.
Minecraft allows players to build these in survival mode. However, it is also averted, if the player is standing on a block even half a block high and tries to jump, they will be able to get over the fence. This is because the fences act as being 1.5 blocks high when checking for collision, while only looking to be one block high. It is also somewhat literal, since the player characters are 2 blocks high.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series does this frequently, with the New York level in Tony Hawks 2 being possibly the worst example of it.
Each Star Wars game in which the player can use a lightsaber. In the movies and various other media, these have been used to cut through several-inch-thick Unobtainium-steel doors. In the games, they typically have no effect on any barriers whatsoever. Knights of the Old Republic 2 actually allowed you to bash open doors with your lightsaber, but there were still "magnetically sealed" doors that resisted all force.
Forget lightsabers; in the Expanded Universe just about every force user can hurl massive objects with a flick of the wrist and should easily be able to pull down nearly any barrier. Especially noticeable in The Force Unleashed, when the protagonist is able to pull a Star Destroyer out of orbit and throw five story Unobtainium doors around with the Force, but many other barriers are completely impassible.
You could probably build Mount Everest out of the Frictionless Hills and Gentle Slopes of Unclimbability in the Lego Star Wars series.
Not to mention completely cover Coruscant with vegetation from the various Impassable Forests.
Justified somewhat in Knights during the Tatooine levels — if you try to go beyond the marked barriers, you get text saying that venturing blindly into a trackless, lifeless desert might not be such a hot idea.
Gruntz is chock-full of various obstacles that any normal human could easily get past by just climbing onto things or walking carefully between them. Then again, the tutorial does mention that titular gruntz aren't exactly bright.
In this example, a little dog is seemingly not able to escape a cage made out of empty Pepsi cans.
Similarly, horses and other large animals are sometimes kept in non-electric, unbarbed fence enclosures; they could knock down a fence section without even trying... so, naturally, they only ever break fences by mistake, because trying to knock a fence down doesn't occur to them. Typically these fences are electrified when putting animals in a new pen. Once the animal learns where the fence is, they generally avoid the fence.
Seligman's original Learned Helplessness experiments, in which dogs which were previously subject to unavoidable electric shocks were later found unable to jump over a very low wall to avoid the shock, instead putting their heads down and whining.
Many insects get trapped behind the window even if some of the window squares are open, trying desperately to fly against the glass. Of course this is due to their inability to see the difference between air and transparent glass.
Insects also tend to move up when they can't move horizontally, to the extent that an upside-down, uncovered cup will usually keep them trapped for quite a while until they fall out by mistake.
Guineafowl have demonstrated a remarkable inability to get around an open farm-gate. Sometimes it takes as long as 15 minutes for them to realise they can fly over it, so actually managing to walk around it doesn't tend to occur.
Gavin Maxwell relates a tale of having opened the gate to let his geese out of their pen some time earlier than the time he regularly did it, then went away and thought no more of it. Then, some time after the regular gate-opening time, he looked out the window and was surprised to see no geese outside. He investigated, and found all the geese still inside their pen, pacing up and down impatiently in front of the open gate. Only after he closed the gate again and then reopened it with a theatrical flourish did the geese come out.
Dave Barry wrote about his dogs who waited in front of a door to be let outside, even though the door was the only part of the porch that was still standing after a hurricane. Thus, they could have simply walked around the door.
There was a video that appeared on America's Funniest Home Videos where the glass in a door was completely gone, for whatever reason. A golden retriever was sitting patiently at the door, waiting to go out. His owner stepped through the door, opened it, and then the dog went out. Same story when the dog wanted to get back in: the owner would step through the door and open it, and only then would the dog go.
Pronghorn antelopes are apparently unable or unwilling to jump over even short fences (quite different from deer or true antelopes)
Not So Different. The gas and oil pipelines laid across the northen Russian plains became a serious problem for the migrating deer herds there. Although the animals should technically be able to get over them, they are too afraid of an unfamilliar obstacle.
Some Running Mites will not cross a drawn line. Draw a circle around them and they will helplessly run frantically around the circle.
Cattle refuse to walk over a grid or similar. You can put a road or driveway through a fence and keep your cattle in by putting a grid down. Hell, you could just paint a grid on the ground and they'd stay away.
That's because most cattle grids are made wide enough that the animal's leg could slip through the gap, potentially crippling it, and they can't watch where they put their feet like humans do. It doesn't look like much, but a cattle grid is a very real barrier to its intended target.
To an office chair, a guitar cable is one of these.
Or a fold in the carpet.
Wheelchair users can often be stopped cold by something a person on foot might not even notice. Even places that were designed to be accessible might not have been maintained, while power wheelchairs have gotten bigger and all types have gotten more varied since the first accessibility standards were written in the 1970s.
Related, some people with visual problems may either mistake an object that they can easily step over as being much bigger than it really is.
Barbed wire and electrified fences. You could probably climb over them but would you really want to?
It's not uncommon to find gaps in fences that a skinny kid can squeeze through but someone heavier can't.
Very large ungulates like elephants and rhinos are kept in zoos behind a literal Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence (or even lower). It helps show the animal better, and they are too heavy to jump or walk over the fence without touching it. The trick, of course is making the fence electrified to keep them from toppling it.
The only one fence separating passengers by class in the Titanic was a waist height fence that became insurmountable because of stewards who didn't know that the ship was sinking. Of course this makes for rather poor drama, hence why James Cameron substitued them for several two meter tall fences in his 1997 movie.
In some jurisdictions, for example in Germany, it is not illegal to enter private property with no fence or similar around it. So while not stopping you physically, a waist height fence prevents you from entering legally.
This is actually programmed into some animals. When placed on a table and a pane of transparent material (like plexiglass) extends off the edge and a treat placed on the plexiglass, some animals will be fooled that they cannot "walk off" the table to get the treat because there is a "drop".
Note that he locks the gate by reaching over to their side and locking it.
Seen in Hot Shots! Part Deux, wherein the crack squad of commandoes are stymied by a backyard gate, which has been "locked from the inside."
Later averted when the lead character then climbs over a waist high wall. With a grappling hook and rope. Said wall was then walked around by another character.
In Blazing Saddles, Taggart and his goons encounter a tollbooth in the middle of the desert, even though they're not even on any kind of road or trail. Taggart's response? "Somebody better go back and get a shitload o' dimes!"
In the Discworld novel Thief of Time, many of the Lawful Stupid Auditors are stymied by a series of signs saying things like "Ignore this sign. By order." and "Do not feed the elephant." (where no elephant is nearby)
Team Fortress 2 has a commentary node (on tc_hydro) about how its conspicuous waist-high fences are a major theme of the game.
This door in Fallout 3 requires maxed-out lockpicking skill to open. This door that barely remains on its own hinges and has a clearly broken window, requires maxed-out lockpicking skill to open.
Parodied in Stinkoman 20X6, where the titular hero spends an entire level jumping over a small wall.
This trope is deconstructed in Yume Nikki. If you explore the wasteland long enough you will stumble across some toriningen having a lively little picnic with the happiest song in the game playing in the background. However, some small plants prevent you from joining them, so all you can do is watch from afar and feel left out. When you try to find another way in, you'll find that every possible way is blocked. What makes this heartwrenching is that this event is taking place inside the protagonist's head and likely represents past experiences with social exclusion.
Parodied in Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude. When Larry examines a road construction site, he says it's a cheap way to block off the player from wandering off the level.
Lampshade Hanging in Privates, where the player is frequently informed that "We can't get past these little velvety ropes just yet."
The Cut-able trees in Pokémon are parodied in this comic strip. The trope is even referenced.
Lampshaded in Dragon Quest 5 by Bianca in Returndia if you admit you're lost in the party chat. She wonders why the party can't just climb up and jump down the walls no taller than they are to get around.
Addressed and parodied in HOME 2013, where the Batter asks the Judge why he can't simply climb over the IWH Floating Cubes. The Judge reacts like the Batter has lost his mind.
There is an animated .gif◊ floating around the internet where someone wants to open a door. It proceeds to summon mecha, fire missiles, bash at it with oversized swords and hammers and finally drop a nuke whose explosion can be seen from space. When he is exhausted, the door finally swings open inwardly.
The Japanese words at the start say say "Door won't open! Smash it down!!!" At the end, it says "if it doesn't work when you push it, try pulling it". Wise words, indeed.
Hoofstuck: During the interactive walkaround flash game, there is a picket fence separating Big Macintosh from the other ponies. The pegasi can fly over this fence. If you try to cross the fence as an earth pony, you get a message that "You can't cross this fence! It's at least waist-high!" If you try to cross it as any unicorn besides Twilight, you get a message that you can't cross the fence because you never learned how to teleport. And if you try to cross it as Twilight, you get a message that "You can't cross this fence because you never remember you can teleport when it would actually be useful."
Angry Joe: "It's no use! The bullets are just going through the hooooooooooles!"
Not even ladders can let them bypass the fence! They have to use footstools instead.
A deleted scene had LordKat look at the fence... and then walk to the gate and enter there.
Phelous makes fun of this during his Anaconda 4 review, when he points out that the moderately large log obstructing the road could've easily been moved by the group if they'd bothered to lift it. To take it to point, Phelous goes driving and has a small twig "obstructing" the road, which he immediately concludes is immovable, and therefore must leave his car and walk the rest of the way.
He also did the same in his criticism of the contrived game trappings in Silent Hill: Downpour where the escaped convict that is your character decides to go the completely opposite (and potentially more dangerous) direction towards the eponymous town when a single tree falls to the side blocking the player's left path. Although long and covering the whole side, the fact the tree looks only a foot high makes is so that an accidental hop would allow the player to pass such as obstacle.
College Sagaparodies this (among many other video game tropes) by blocking the character's progress with a chair standing in the middle of the road.
In a College Humor parody trailer for a Sims movie, a cop is standing on one side of a chest high, chainlink fence and literally calls in backup because, "There's no conceivable way to get past this fence!"
Matt: I'm not super enough or soldier enough to go up these one foot tall sandbags! 50 million dollars well spent!
Lampshaded in Freeman's Mind on multiple occasions as Gordon complains about bullet-proof glass in exit doors, invulnerable doors, and the many other inconveniences he faces.
Gordon: What the fuck? We installed bulletproof glass in our exit doors? That stuff's not cheap! How retarded are we? I don't even know anymore!
The basic trope is averted; the author occasionally uses cheats to let Gordon lift himself over a head-height barrier or up onto a slightly higher platform. On top of minor Sequence Breaking, it's also occasionally used to highlight the Artificial Stupidity that ensues when the HECU marines' scripts are broken.
"I have hind legs powerful enough to jump up 10 feet onto roof tops, the technology to conquer the non-trivial challenge of intergalactic space travel, but I'll be DAMNED if I can kick down this wooden door."
Cracked Photoplasty advertises two variants in "Ads for Products That Must Exist in Video Games": #23 and #16.
On Atop the Fourth Wall Linkara finally gets fed up with how during the Halloween "Silent Hill" Months, he's constantly blocked by things like stacks of cardboard boxes. He calmly tells the boxes he will set them on fire if they force his hand about blocking his path, and the stack quickly falls apart.
Linkara: Thank you.
He also mocks the "trapped in one area until X is done" trope, pointing out that the items he needs to unlock his front door are not available to him while he is trapped in his house. The door unlocks.
In an end-of-review skit, he mocks the premise of Silent Hill 4, solving the problem of his front door being chained up from the inside by removing the door hinges. He then leaves a note on the door claiming that "Henry is an idiot".
The infamous trees and ledges from Pokémon become day-long ordeals in Twitch Plays Pokémon due to the players' absolute inability to walk in straight lines or to select anything from the menu other than Bulbasaur's Dex entry.
alternative title(s): Insurmountable Waist High Fence; Adamantium Door; Frictionless Hill; Indestructible Fallen Log; Unclearable Debris; Gentle Slope Of Unclimbability; Rough Ground Of Unwalkability; Ledge Of Instant Death; Knee Deep Water Of Uncrossability; Impassable Head High Hole